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What I’m Reading: July 2018 – Creativity, Data, Spies, Information Warfare, Cyber Warfare, and Big Brother


Here are the articles I enjoyed the most in July 2018:

A very short guide to the most creative part of your brain – Fast Company, 7/23/2018

I’m always a fan of articles on creativity. This article discusses how to get out of the “control network” side of the brain and into the “default network” or creative side of the brain. The control side is full of learned logic and rules while the default is where new ideas are created. This is the brain in boot-up mode, before any programming. Some of the ideas suggested include: Get to a work- or task-free space, don’t create problems, and disrupt yourself.

How to Be a Smart Consumer of Social Science Research – Harvard Business Review, 7/27/2018

This is a short article, but important. Not all research is the same and it is important to always look for biases, sample sizes, or “priors”. Not much new, but an important reminder nonetheless.

The Democratization of Data Science – Harvard Business Review, 7/27/2018

An important message on data science. Educating workforces how to ask the right questions of data science professionals frees up the scientists to do more advanced work. This is a lot like teaching people how to track their local budgets so the finance office can focus on bigger projects. Or the fact that every employee is a marketer for the company. If employees can conduct their own simple data queries, data analysts can work on complex problems.

How Silicon Valley Became a Den of Spies – Politico, 7/27/2018

This article discusses how Russia and China have focused spying an espionage on the US tech and business communities. These intel collection efforts include venture capitalists, sex workers, counterprotests to affect US business. This makes sense, and could have more of an effect on America, despite being less sexy than military and political spying that goes on in DC or NYC. Hopefully these companies are aware of the threat and understand how to take appropriate action.

Report: China, Russia and Iran ramp up economic spying on US – APNews, 7/26/2018

As mentioned above, military and political spying aren’t the only way nations try to steal from the US. This article discusses a report by the National Counterintelligence and Security Center that states that America’s adversaries are increasingly using cyberoperations, sophisticated hackers, spies, and foreign students studying at American universities to gain information on US companies and technology.

Russia Gives Lessons In Electronic Warfare – Army Magazine, 8/2018

A very interesting primer on Russia’s use of “electronic warfare” – using signals and the electromagnetic spectrum for non-kinetic and kinetic strikes. In Ukraine and Syria, the Russians have blended electromagnetic warfare with information warfare and missile strikes, bringing new tech to old tactics. The article closes with how the US can better train and prepare for a future where their operations faces electronic threats.

Controlling the Narrative: How Political Warfare Can Influence Policy – Strategy Bridge, 7/31/2018

A good history and summary of using tactics such as influence operations to propel the politics of a target nation towards a specific outcome. This is usually possible due to chaos on the information platform and the ability to conduct low risk, high yield efforts.

Social Engineering as a Threat to Societies: The Cambridge Analytica Case – Strategy Bridge, 7/18/2018

A look at social engineering and its effects on democracies. This article explores the 2016 election and Facebook’s role in creating “tribes”. It also discusses how society can free itself from being easy marks for social engineering. My big problem with the article is while it discusses some solutions, they are generic and US-based. Facebook is manipulating societies all over the world.

When It Comes To Dealing With Fake/Bot Accounts, Twitter Is (Still) Failing –, 7/24/2018

Interesting article with a lot of good research. This post discusses Twitter’s lack of urgency at deleting or purging bot networks. Twitter is often alerted but does little as the heads of bot networks often pay the platform significant ad revenue.

Smaller Nation State Attacks: A Growing Cyber Menace – ThreatPost, 7/18/2018

Anarchy in the information and cyber platforms have leveled the playing field for many nation states. Cyber attacks are not like nuclear weapons, where right equipment and technology are expensive and can be blocked. Cyber and information warfare are low cost and very high yield. They can outsourced or hidden.

A Global Guide to State Sponsored Trolling – Bloomberg, 7/19/2018

A very powerful article on how several nation-states are using “virtual hate mobs, surveillance, misinformation, anonymous threats, and the invasion of victims’ privacy” to harass and control residents and dissidents.

An amazing quote right here: “These campaigns can take on the scale and speed of the modern internet“.

And we know the internet moves at the speed of business and innovation. Innovate or die. Hence conflict is moving at the speed of innovation and business.

The rise of SamSam, the hacker group shutting down entire cities – Wired, 8/1/2018

Interesting look at the SamSam hacker group attacking US cities and other organizations. This group is using low tech hacking to shut down city components and hold their users’ computers for ransom. And some organizations are paying. When the hacking is hard to track and the ransom is paid through bitcoin, there is no way to find the attackers.

Does DoD know how to supply intel for cyber ops? – 7/2/2018

News on how the US military integrates cyber intelligence into its operations. According to the article, the military struggles with cyber news. From my experience, there are two major barriers: understanding and classification. Most cyber intel is highly classified due to sources and methods, and is not easily shared. But commanders do need to be asking for it. And analysts need to learn how to communicate it.

Fish Out of Water: How the Military is an Impossible Place for Hackers, and What to Do About It – War On The Rocks, 7/12/2018

A very insightful and detailed article on the how the military handles their Cyber Command. Due to several factors, the military’s hacker units are underachieving. The author believes this is due to mismanagement of the organization. Cyber Command can’t keep their people due to lack of mentorship, overwork, lack of pay, career paths that require too much extraneous military protocol away from their jobs, and no unity of command. With a high cost of training hackers, this is a problem for the military. The author suggests running cyber command as the military runs other high skill positions such as the medical and legal fields.

Beijing’s Big Brother Tech Needs African Faces – Foreign Policy, 7/24/2018

Scary news out of Zimbabwe. As China expands its technology reach, it is sucking up data on users. This includes public cameras, telephones, and other tech. In China and beyond, this data is often used to repress human rights. With Chinese tech in Africa, different faces and data will make their databases smarter and stronger. There are few rules in technological data collection and regimes that don’t play by the rules won’t follow international agreements anyway.

The Walls Are Closing In – Deadspin, 7/24/2018

I identified with this column quite a bit. If you have read this blog for a while, you know it started as a sports blog. It was part of the blogging underground of the mid-2000s. We told mainstream writers they were lazy and incompetent and would soon be replaced by “the voice of the fan”. But as Drew Magary writes, writers and bloggers have both been replaced by social media garbage, fake news, and clickbait. We are drowning in flotsam, and many people not only don’t mind the stink, they are bathing in it and drinking it like kool-aid. Meanwhile, big media and tech companies make fistsful of dollars ravaging the media landscape and laying off the best writers and researchers among us.

As Talib Kweli says “We are having a funeral for the news cause the facts is dead.”